Tag Archives: 2014 Notre Dame Football

Tuesday’s With Brian Kelly – Stanford Week

-SSG Shamrock

Brian Kelly met with the media for his weekly Tuesday press conference as the Irish prepare to take on Stanford on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium. Down the Tunnel was there and sifts through the coach speak to provide you the key tidbits.

  • Coach Kelly talked about the challenge Stanford will present this weekend. He praised their veteran players including quarterback Kevin Hogan and receiver Ty Montgomery. He also called Stanford’s defense the best in the country
  • In discussing some of the turnovers from the Syracuse game Coach Kelly talked about the fumble on the direct snap when Golson was trying to spike the ball at the end of the first half. Kelly said that Golson heard the whistle blow and he stopped playing which is the way he was taught.
  • Coach Kelly also talked about the play of the receiving corps through the first four games of the season. He was very impressed with the entire group and praised their perimeter blocking. Coach mentioned that Will Fuller is getting more and more confident every week.
  • Everett Golson was the FBS Independent Offensive Player of the week however when Coach Kelly told Golson he wasn’t all that excited about it and maybe felt that he didn’t deserve it.
  • Ben Council will be a part of the defensive rotation this weekend against Stanford
  • Amir Carlise is clear for all activities and should be good to go this weekend. Austin Collinsworth should also be able to contribute this weekend.
  • Jared Grace is continuing to make progress everyday but its unclear when he will have that “break through day”
  • Coach Kelly stated that he has no idea what the process is this week with the academic hearings and also does not know when the decisions of the hears will be completed.
  • Kelly make it clear that Notre Dame is going to need to get big chunk plays on offense if they expect to beat Stanford. Coming into the game Stanford has only allowed four plays of 20 yards or more all season long.
  • In the most bizarre question of the day, someone actually asked Coach Kelly if he had any thoughts of inserting Malik Zaire into the game against Syracuse. Not joking. And to be expected Kelly stated the thought never crossed his mind.
  • Kelly praised CJ Prosise’s skill set of having a burst, he can catch the football, and he can block very well. He still needs to work on route running and tracking he deep ball but Kelly is pleased with his play so far.

Everett Golson for Heisman. Down The Tunnel Style

-SSG Shamrock

golson4heisman

We are five weeks into the college football season and after an outstanding start to the season, Everett Golson is in the thick of the Heisman trophy conversation. Every year there are always Heisman trophy “campaigns” for players in the conversation and we here at Down the Tunnel want to get that campaign kick started. In order to make it more fun for everyone we have decided to start a contest that will get the Golson for Heisman Campaign started. Here is how the contest will work:

  • Make a sign that says “Golson for Heisman” and include Down the Tunnel somewhere on the sign. Either the name of the site or the site logo.
  • Bring your newly made “Golson for Heisman” sign with you and get a picture with you holding it in as many different places as possible. The idea is to bring it to all sorts of events for mass exposure to show your support of Golson for Heisman!
  • Every time you tweet or email us a picture of you with your sign you will earn a point. If your sign makes it on TV (And you can prove it) you earn five points. So if anyone is near a campus where College GameDay is going to be that would be a great chance to earn points.
  • Each week through the rest of the season there will be an updated leaderboard of who has the most points. At the end of the regular season the individual with the most points will win any two free Down The Tunnel T-Shirts of their choice!

So basically you make a sign that says “Golson for Heisman” with DTT somewhere on the sign and than you take pictures of yourself with it in as many places as possible! TAKING A PICTURE WITH THE SIGN IN YOUR HOUSE DOES NOT COUNT. Get out there in public, at sporting events, in the big city, and anywhere else you think would be an interesting place to show your support for Notre Dame’s Heisman Trophy Candidate!

To submit your photo’s you must either tweet them too us @DwnTheTunnel or you can email them to kjburke10@gmail.com. The contest ends the Sunday following the last game of the regular season. Now get out there and get the “Golson for Heisman” campaign started!

Getting to Know Thy Enemy – Syracuse Week

-SSG Shamrock

Syracuse week rolls on and before we dive into how the game will play out from our perspective its important to look at the matchup from the other side of the table. In a week where we are already introducing the new Down the Tunnel radio show (premiering tomorrow night) we at Down the Tunnel are bringing you yet another new weekly feature. Each week we will have a Q&A with a media member from the opponent the Irish will face that week. This week we were joined by Brent Axe (@BrentAxeMedia), an ESPN Radio host in Syracuse covering Syracuse athletics and is also an AP voter. Brent answers some of our questions about Syracuse and how he thinks the game this weekend will play out.

DTT – After looking back on the first three games of the season, what would you say that the major strength of Syracuse is at this point? What is the major weakness?
Brent – Ironically their biggest strength could also be perceived as a weakness as well as quarterback Terrel Hunt is the team’s leading rusher with 273 yards so far this season. Hunt has done a good job on zone-read plays and is much more decisive this season in Syracuse’s fast-paced offense, but his yardage also has to be attributed to the weakness of wide receivers to get separation, forcing him to take off and run more. Running back Prince-Tyson Gulley is capable of breaking off a big run at any time and Linebacker Cam Lynch has been a major strength as well. He is Top 10 in the country in several defensive categories and looks like he has been shot out of a cannon to begin the year.

The weaknesses have been the struggle of the wide receivers to gain separation. Syracuse’s passing game has been short-range on bubble screens and short routes. The secondary is also a big question mark. The history is there for this unit failing to keep up with athletic receivers.

DTT – Syracuse comes into this game with one of the top 20 rushing offenses in the country while Notre Dame touts a top 20 rushing defense? What makes the Orange rushing attack so potent? How do you think they will far against the Irish defense?
Brent – Versatility. What helps is that Syracuse basically has another running back on the field with Hunt. He’s not a burner, but is elusive and can get to the first-down marker when needed on 3rd down. Gulley is the No.1 guy and has the speed to get to the outside and ability to find the hole. Adonis Ameen-Moore is the power back. He is very similar this year to what Jerome Smith was to the Orange last year. Very hard to bring down. Devante McFarlane and Erv Phillips bring speed. George Morris II has flashed at times, but he has kind of been the odd man out this year.

I’m very curious to see how they do against Notre Dame defense because it is far and away the best they have seen this season.

DTT – Syracuse has seemingly had some trouble in the passing game so far this season. Why do you think that is?
Brent – I think it’s a combination of the receivers struggling to find separation, Hunt still developing as a passer and Syracuse’s offensive philosophy. Offensive Coordinator George McDonald has joined the party of coordinators that want to run as many plays as possible, so I think the tendency is Hunt will take the safe route and keep the chains moving by utilizing the H-back a lot. One big key for this game is Hunt will not have his safety valve in this game as Ashton Broyld got hurt last week against Maryland.

DTT – Who are two Syracuse players that Notre Dame fans have not heard of but will know by the end of the game on Saturday?
Brent – I’ll go with Cam Lynch and Brisly Estime. Watch Sean Hickey at left tackle as well. He is going to be an early-round NFL draft pick.

DTT – How do you see the game playing out? What is your prediction?
Brent – I think their best hope is to put pressure on Golson and try to force him into a few mistakes, which won’t be easy considering how he has played this year. Syracuse will play physical “hard-nosed” football, as head coach Scott Shafer likes to say, and will blitz a lot. But the offense just isn’t ready to keep pace. McDonald better have a few tricks up his sleeve. But at the end of the day I think they will be physically dominated by the Irish ‘D. and will struggle to score. Their kicking game is a mess right now. If they can’t finish drives with points, this game will get away from them fast.

I’ve got Notre Dame 41, Syracuse 14.

Tuesday Chat with Brian Kelly – Syracuse Week

-SSG Shamrock

Brian Kelly met with the media today to discuss this weekend’s contest with the Syracuse Orangemen as well provide some new information on the ongoing academic investigation. Down the Tunnel was there and has all the pertinent information from Coach Kelly’s weekly press conference.

Key Information 

  • On the weekly depth chart release there was a significant shake up on the offensive line. The revamped offensive line has Ronnie Stanley at LT, Nick Martin at LG, Matt Hegarty at Center, Steve Elmer at RG, and Christian Lombard at RT. Coach Kelly did make sure to note that this may not be the exact offensive line that starts on Saturday and that Connor Hanratty and Mike McGlinchey will also receive first team reps this week.
  • Amir Carlise is OUT this week against Syracuse and is should be seen as questionable for next week against Stanford. Coach Kelly said that Carlise has been responding well to his PRP treatments and will start moving him around at the end of the week.
  • Torii Hunter is slated to make his Notre Dame debut this weekend and will get work with CJ Prosise in the slot.
  • Austin Collinsworth will be back in the lineup this weekend after missing the first three games with an MCL sprain.
  • Brian Kelly said that he was informed last Friday that the academic committee had been official formed and that if all goes well the hearings should be concluded by the end of NEXT week. Kelly also made it clear he was not a spokesman of the administration and that when a student is notified of a violation, only the student is notified and not the parents.
  • Coach Kelly stated that there is still not a “go to number one” running back in the backfield. Greg Bryant has been doing a very good job of understanding schemes but he has to unseat two players in Tarean Folston and Cam McDaniel that have played a lot of football game. Bryant has only played in three college games and still has work to do.
  • Kelly talked about the ACC conference alignment and how the main factors that went into the decision was ensuring high quality bowl tie-ins as well as a conference that made geographic sense for Notre Dame.
  • Kelly said that Malik Zaire is getting 60% of the reps in practice on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and 40% of the reps on Thursday. The amount of reps that Zaire gets just shows how confident the staff is in Golson as the quarterback. Kelly said there is no temptation to play Zaire at all.
  • Kelly gave credit to Paul Longo and Brian VanGorder for having so many freshman ready to play and contribute on the defensive side of the ball. Kelly also said they knew before the season that the staff knew they were going to have to play freshman but they didn’t know exactly who would emerge.

Check back all week long for all your Notre Dame coverage of this weekends matchup against Syracuse and dont forget to tune into the first broadcast of the Down the Tunnel Radio show on Thursday night. We will be taking your calls live!

Grading Out the First Three Weeks

-Sgt Shamrock

The first quarter of the season is complete and with this week being the first bye week of the season, now would be as good a time as ever to look back at the first three games of the season to see just where the Irish stand. Record wise nobody is complaining with the Irish being 3-0 with wins over Rice, Michigan, and Purdue and the outlook of the entire season looking much brighter than it did a few weeks ago. Even with the academic investigation not complete and dragging into the season, the Irish have been able to plug and play players to fill in the holes and have so far done a pretty good job of it. Lets take a look at some interesting statistics from the first three weeks and also give out grades for each position group for the first quarter of the season

Stats and Notes:

  • Notre Dame has scored at least 30 points in their first three games of the season, the first time that has happened since Brian Kelly arrived at Notre Dame
  • Through three games Notre Dame is converting 47% of its third downs while holding their opponents to a 37% conversion rate.
  • Notre Dame has been in the red zone fourteen times so far this season. The Irish are 14/14 in those trips in scoring with ten touchdowns and four field goals.
  • The Irish have intercepted six passes by through three games. Those six interceptions were intercepted by six different players
  • Notre Dame has scored 13 touchdowns in their first three games while only allowing opponents into the end zone four times.
  • Notre Dame has won each of its first three games by at least 16 points. The last time an Irish team did that was in 1987
  • Notre Dame ranks 4th nationally in scoring defense allowing only 10.3 points per game.

Quarterback 

There is really not a more impressive way for Everett Golson to start of the season. After sitting out the entire 2013 season, Golson has quickly put himself in the Heisman Trophy conversation. After the first three games, Golson is 62 of 96 passing for 780 yards, seven touchdowns and ZERO interceptions or fumbles. Notre Dame ranks 51st nationally in Passing offense averaging 260 yards per game. Even with a receiving corps full of new faces, Golson has had pretty good chemistry with his receivers and has looked very crisp and comfortable in the pocket. Irish fans can only hope that Golson keeps up this performance because if he plays at this level, the wins will keep piling up. Grade: A

Running backs

The running game has been a bit underwhelming in the first quarter of the season. After a strong performance against Rice, Notre Dame had two lackluster performances running the football against Michigan and Purdue. The Irish are currently ranked 70th nationally averaging a very average 158 yards per game. Greg Bryant leads the team in rushing with 119 yards while Tarean Folston is a close second with 110 yards. Those types of numbers are what we were hoping these guys to have in one game, not three games. With the amount of talent in the Irish backfield it is vital to get the running game going in order to keep defenses off balance to open up the passing game for Everett Golson. Grade: C

Receiving Corps

With Davaris Daniels still being held out as the academic investigation continues, Will Fuller has been the breakout star in the Irish receiving corps early on this season. While he has had some drops early on, he leads the team with 19 receptions for 225 yards and three touchdowns. He has really shown the speed that we all expected. Amir Carlise and CJ Prosice have been very effective in the slot and are adding even more speedy weapons to Golson’s arsenal. Torii Hunter will return to the lineup next week against Syracuse to make his Notre Dame debut which should add another weapon to the offense. Chris Brown has been disappointing thus far, being very inconsistent and really not playing to the level that many thought he would. There have been some miscues in terms of communication with the receivers in terms of routes and play calls as well as a couple drops. That is going to need to get cleaned up quickly. Grade: B-

Offensive Line

If there was one part of the offense that has not looked impressive through the first three weeks it would be the offensive line. There have been some major issues in both run and pass blocking that are real concerns for the Irish. The offensive line along with not really opening running lanes to allow the running game going, they have also given up six sacks in the first three games. At times the offensive line has had real trouble maintaining blocks in the passing game, especially against Purdue. Brian Kelly said following the win over Purdue that he was going to talk to the coaching staff about possibly moving some players to different positions along the line. After the first three games performance that is a pretty good idea. Grade: C-

Defensive Line

So far this season the defensive line has really been Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. They looked not bad against Rice, played a fantastic game against Michigan, but then look to take a step back after a fairly lackluster performance against Purdue. The line had a hard time getting any pressure on the Purdue quarterback this past weekend and that is not a good sign with much tougher opponents looming on the schedule. Sheldon Day however has played very well so far this season and is really looking like he is turning into a dominant force on defense. Jarron Jones has also shown some flashes of brilliance which is a reason for some optimism. We saw that the defensive line can play very well in Brian VanGorders scheme in the Michigan game. Now we have to see if they can get back to that level and stay there. Grade: B-

Linebackers

Let me go ahead and get this out of the way. Jaylon Smith is a beast and is without a doubt the best player on defense. Other than Jaylon Smith the linebackers have had a pretty season so far. Joe Schmidt is playing far better than people expected him too and he looks nothing like a former walk on. VanGorder has shown he is not afraid to mix up the blitz packages and bring linebackers from all areas of the field to get pressure on the quarterback. While we have not seen much of Ben Council, expect that to change once Stanford comes to town in a few weeks as Brian Kelly will bring him in to help against the physical offense of the Cardinal. Jared Grace is still out with an injury however he is getting closer and closer to playing time. He will not play against Syracuse but I don’t think its out of the realm of possibly he could return for Stanford. The group hasn’t been super flashy early on but they have not made many mistakes either. Oh yea and Jaylon Smith is a beast. Grade: B+

Secondary 

In my opinion even without KeiVarae Russell playing right now, the secondary is the strength of the Irish defense at this point in the season and I believe it will stay that way all year long. The Irish have already intercepted six passes through three games and the entire unit is really thriving in VanGorder’s scheme. Mathias Farley, a player that after a lackluster performance last year, has really thrived and is playing his best football in his new nickel corner position. Both Cole Luke and Cody Riggs are doing more than enough in coverage at the corner positions. Redfield and Shumate have played really well at the safety positions and Austin Collinsworth should return to the lineup soon after missing the first three games with a strained MCL. The only issue with the secondary that worries me going forward is depth. Going on the assumption that Russell will not return this season (I dont know that is the case I am just assuming) and Nikki Barrati being out for the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury, Notre Dame can not afford any more injuries. Grade A-

Special Teams

In years past this is normally where I would be talking about how the special teams is a mess yet again and trying to figure out what to do due to fix it. However that is not the case this season. Cody Riggs and Greg Bryant has finally provided and successful punt return unit and Amir Carlise has looked good on kickoffs as well. Kyle Brindza is a valuable weapon in all facets of the kicking game especially on kickoffs. Forcing your opponent to start on the 25 without a chance at a return is always good and is a big part of Notre Dame’s success. Grade: A-

Stat Sandwich: Notre Dame/scUM Team Breakdown

Notre Dame: 37 – Michigan: 0. Those are the only numbers you really need to know. I thought about making my entire post just that because when you set up the scenario where you may never give up a point to your rival opponent again, what else is there to do? And don’t you dare tell me I got the score wrong. I’ve seen plenty of pictures that confirmed that score. What’s that saying? Numbers never lie? That may be true, but there’s an equally true saying that was in play on Saturday: B1G referees suck. And it’s for that reason that some in the business will insist the final score was 31-0.

When you find yourself in a situation where the numbers disagree, it can help to re-imagine them in a different way. I’ve already taken it upon myself to petition the NCAA official record books to reconcile this discrepancy in a reasonable manner. I’ve asked them to change the final score to: Brian VanGorder Double Fist Pumps – Eternal Sadness. Until that goes official (I’m optimistic it’ll be sometime next week because we all know how efficient the NCAA is in its decision-making process, right UNC and Miami?), let’s dig into this week’s Stat Sandwich.

Like last week, I’ll start off by presenting some of the baseline, team wide statistics. As an added wrinkle, and until enough games have passed to develop more season long trends and analysis, I’m presenting this week’s stats alongside last week’s for comparison purposes. The last column is a general point of reference for whether week-over-week a particular category saw improvement or regression. Of course, this is all relative. So, for instance, I noted that “just” 31 points was a fall off from last week’s 48 (aren’t you glad you’ve read this far to learn 31 is in fact less than 48?), and therefore it’s noted as worse. Don’t take that too seriously. How about you pretend to look at the table, and then jump below for the areas that I was actually interested in.

Rice:

Michigan:

Better/Worse:

Points:

48

31

Worse

Plays:

72

75

Better

Points per Play:

.67

.41

Worse

Passing Attempts:

22

34

N/A

Rushing Attempts:

42

31

N/A

Penalties:

2

3

Worse

FG Attempts:

3

1

N/A

Punts:

3

6

Worse

Total Yards:

576

280

Worse

Rushing Yards:

281

54

Worse

Passing Yards:

295

226

Worse

Yards per Play:*

8.72

4.24

WORSE

Yards per Point:

12

9.03

BETTER

Penalty Yards:

10

20

Worse

Turnovers:

0

0

Same

Field Goals:

2/3. Makes: 29, 36 yards. Misses: 39 yards

1/1, Makes: 43

Better %

Punts: 39 yards (fair catch), 50 yards (touchback), 55 yards (touchback). 47 yards (fair catch), 41 yards (fair catch), 40 yards (fair catch), 39 yards (fair catch), 40 yards (fair catch), 23 yards (out of bounds) No touchbacks. Pinned Michigan inside 10 yard line twice. One shank.
Punt Average:

48

38

Worse

Net Punt Average:

35

38

BETTER

1st Downs:

23

20

Worse

3rd Down Converts:

6/13 for 46%

7/15 for 47%

Better

Red Zone Atts:

6

4

Worse

Red Zone TDs:

4

3

N/A

Red Zone FG’s:

2

1

N/A

RZ Score %:

100%

100%

Same

RZ TD %:

67%

75%

Better

* YPP = (Total Yards )/(Total plays – (Punts + FG Att + Def. Penalties))

Points per play: Last week I introduced some folks to the points per play metric which is a rough guide to explosiveness. Notre Dame’s week one performance versus Rice resulted in 0.67 points per play which in 2013 would have ranked second behind only Florida State. Given the total points, 48, and the explosive touchdowns (Fuller’s 75 yard TD comes to mind), you can get a general impression as to how the two work with one another. This week then it’s not at all surprising that points per play dropped off. Notre Dame’s longest rush of the game was Malik Zaire’s 14 yard scramble at the end of the game on 3rd and 16. Greg Bryant, Tarean Folston, and Cam McDaniel all had poor rushing performances. If you’re into that equality of life thing though, this was your game. Bryant, Folston, and McDaniel all received either 8 or 9 carries. They each had a long run of (just) 6 yards. Consider that last game each of the three had at least one rush of 17 yards, and you can quickly start to understand why points per play diminished.

The passing game, while effective, also lacked the firework plays that get the ladies excited like staring at a certain picture of one Cam McDaniel. The 24-yard touchdown pass to William Fuller in the second quarter was a thing of beauty…it was also the longest offensive play of the game and one of just 4 offensive plays all game that netted more than 15 yards. There are other measures to consider as well, but suffice it to say, this week’s team was more efficient than explosive.

Yards per point: While the offense was less explosive and less efficient in terms of yards per play, the team was quite efficient (nearly unreasonably so) in converting yards to points. The four touchdown drives for Notre Dame were drives of 56, 61, 71, and 80 yards. On the 7 drives the Irish had which did not result in a touchdown the longest drive netted just 19 yards. There were no in between distance drives leading to a remarkably strong yards per point. As stated last week, yards per point is not necessarily predictive in that the correlation from week to week is not terribly strong, but in describing how a team can be outgained in total yards but still absolutely dominate a game, this is a big reason why.

Notre Dame Offensive Play Breakdown by Quarter:

First Quarter Second Quarter Third Quarter Fourth Quarter
# Plays:

17

25 15

18

Runs:

8

9 6

8

Passes:

6

15 7

6

Penalties:

2 (Defensive)

0 1

0

Punts/FG Att:

1

1 1

4

Touchdowns:

1

2 1

0

Rushing Yards:

20

26 10

-2

Passing Yards:

40

129 46

11

Rush:Pass Ratio*

1.33

0.6 0.86

1.33

Rush Yds/Car.

2.5

2.89 1.67

-0.25

  • Michigan Rush:Pass Ratio = 0.91; Rice Rush:Pass Ratio = 1.91; 2013 Rush-Pass Ratio = 1.02. A Ratio of >1 means the team rushed more than it passed. < 1 means the opposite. A ratio of exactly 1 means the team ran the same number of rushing plays as passing plays.

Most of the scoring occurred in the first half, and that’s where the yards were found as well. The running game never really got going and was abandoned during the middle part of the game. The Irish had just 8 yards rushing in the second half, and the fourth quarter in particular was troubling with -2 yards on 8 carries. Versus Rice, Notre Dame put their foot down in the fourth quarter by running the ball 13 times compared to just 1 pass while averaging nearly 10 yards a carry. No repeat versus Michigan.

It’s worth noting that the Irish frequently used an offset back shotgun formation as opposed to the pistol formation which was effective last week. From my perspective, Notre Dame used read option runs early to gauge how the Michigan defense planned to deal with Golson. Michigan made a concerted effort to keep a contain man on Golson. As such, plays which may have been drawn up as read option turned almost exclusively into offset handoffs. The offensive line lacked any sort of real push to free up these slow developing runs. It also led to increased use of the play action pass. Versus Rice, Golson attempted 4 play actions passes all game. Versus Michigan, Golson attempted 6…in the first half. The offense abandoned the play action in the second half, except for one lone play, but when your defense forces 4 turnovers in one half, the need for consistent offense is alleviated.

Notre Dame Performance by Down: 

1st Down:

2nd Down:

3rd Down:

# Plays

28**

23

15

Run:

15

11

4

Pass:

11

11

11

Penalty:

2 (Defensive)^

1^^

0

Avg. to go for 1st:

9.46

7.57

5.33

Change from previous game average yards to go:

-0.54 yards

+1.30

-0.59

Efficiency %:*

39%

43%

47%

Efficiency +/- previous game:

-14%

+4%

+1%

Eff. 3 > 5yds to go

N/A

N/A

17% (1/6)

Eff. 3 <= 5 yds to go

N/A

N/A

67% (6/9)

* the folks at http://www.FootballOutsiders.com use a play efficiency metric to decide whether a play was efficient or not. It’s easy to think about in the context of third downs: Did the play result in 100% of the required yardage to get a first down/score? For first down, the metric is 50% of required yardage. Second down is 70% of required yardage. These are my calculations based on their formula.

** Excluded kneel down at end of game.

*** Notre Dame was 1/1 on 4th Down conversions.

^ Both defensive penalties were pass interference calls resulting in a first down.

^^ All 3 false start infractions for the offense have occurred on second down.

Down Analysis: The most noticeable difference from Rice to Michigan was the efficiency on first down. Versus Rice, over half of all first down plays gained at least 50% of the necessary yardage to get a first down. That dipped by 14% and led to longer second downs. The Irish had well over a yard more to go on average on second down this week than last. Despite the extra yardage they were slightly improved on second down performance. Over one game this really only means an extra play or two went well. Speaking of oddities….The Irish had one penalty on the offensive line in the game called on Steve Elmer. This also came on second down meaning through the first two games, all of the offensive line penalties have occurred on second down. Weird. Not relevant.

Offensive Player Usage

The chart below shows how many snaps each offensive player was in the game for (regardless of whether they touched the ball on a given play). There were a total of 67 non-special teams snaps. Additionally, in this game, I excluded the end of the game victory snap. The percentages will not necessarily add up to 100% for each position since multiple tight ends or receivers were used on the same play. This information is derived from my personal observation and re-watch of the game. My confidence level is about 98% for this game.

Player: QB Use % RB Use % TE Use % WR

Use %

Most

Golson 96 Folston 36 Koyack 94 Fuller

96

Zaire

4 McDaniel 36 Smythe 7 Prosise

52

Bryant

28 Luatua 1 Robinson

51

Brown

49

Carlisle

45

Holmes

4

The number one take away from player usage was that Will Fuller continues to never come off the field. This game saw more pre-set packages. Notably, Corey Robinson and Amir Carlisle tended to be in on the same plays while Chris Brown and C.J. Prosise served as the other unit. There were a handful of plays where Prosise played with Robinson instead of Carlisle, but that’s about it in terms of mix and match. Robinson and Carlisle were in for the first series along with Folston. I don’t take this to mean those players are the “ones” as much as whatever grouping of plays Brian Kelly wanted to use just involved them.

I’m not separating out package usage this week because there was virtually none. Notre Dame near exclusively used 11 personnel. Tyler Luatua made his cameo once again in the first half in an H-Back set up, but it was for just one play on a third and short. There were only two plays that used an “empty back” set that I’ll discuss below. While I’d like to see some more mix and match in terms of types of packages, the impression I’m getting is Kelly is comfortable with the multiple roles both Koyack and the backs can fill in terms of set-up. While I haven’t been tracking it, Koyack’s getting a good amount of use set up wide in a similar capacity to how each of Rudolph, Eifert, and Niklas were used. While perhaps not quite as dynamic as those guys, I have nothing but kind things to say about Koyack at the present.

Passing Targets:

Player:

Thrown To:

Receptions: Yards:

TD’s:

Will Fuller

12

9 89

1

Amir Carlisle

7

7 61

2

Ben Koyack

4

2 14

0

Chris Brown

4

1* 5

0

C.J. Prosise

3

1 18

0

Cam McDaniel

2

2 17

0

Corey Robinson

2

1** 22

0

Thrown Away

2

N/A N/A

N/A

* Brown drew a pass interference call for a first down. His effective plays was 2/4, or 50%.

** Robinson drew a pass interference call for a first down. His effective plays was 2/2, or 100%.

My favorite stat of the week involves Amir Carlisle. Despite seeing the field less than any receiver not named Corey Holmes, Amir Carlisle was second on the team in targets with 7, and even better, each target resulted in a reception. While Carlisle was the poster boy of efficiency, C.J. Prosise had another bad drop making it two in two weeks. I would expect to see a greater usage rate for Carlisle this coming week given the diverging performances of the two primary slot receivers.

Will Fuller is quickly turning into the most intriguing player on the field for me. His speed, feet, and skill in releasing off the line is evident. Michigan’s corners were clearly intimidated by that speed allowing Fuller to effectively use slant routes and convert an important fourth down conversion in the second quarter. Fuller’s day could have been even better were it not for some less exciting hands. He bobbled an opportunity in the early going that resulted in a reception but went for a minimal gain. Had the catch been clean, he might still be running given the blocking that was set up in front of him. I’m not sure who Fuller reminds me of at the present. He’s bigger than a pure speed guy which makes him so unique, and his agility was on display on the 24 yard touchdown reception. Fuller served as the field side wide receiver on almost every play while the taller Robinson and Brown took the boundary side.

Speaking of Brown on the boundary side, as noted above, the Irish ran two plays from an “empty back” set. Both had Cam McDaniel lined up as a receiver. Both times, the 4 other receiver targets lined up on the field side in an effort to set up a one-on-one isolation for Brown on the boundary, and both plays involved pre-snap decisions by Golson that the look was there to go to Brown. The first resulted in a pass interference call against Michigan. The second occurred in Michigan’s red zone on the play Golson got called for intentional grounding. Golson was locked into Brown from the outset (as Mike Mayock noted during the broadcast), however, the route was slow developing, and the Michigan defense in the compressed field was able to provide safety help over the top which disrupted the play.

Drive Efficiency:

Team:

Drives:

Avg. Start Pos. Net Yards: Poss. Net Yards:

Net Yard %

Notre Dame

11

Own 36 317 703

45%

Michigan

12

Own 23 275 927

30%

One unusual aspect to the game was that Michigan had 289 yards of total offense while Notre Dame had 280 yards of total offense. Forgetting about the 4 turnovers and the 2 missed field goals for a moment, the chart above explains why the total offensive yard numbers are misleading. Despite fewer total offensive yards, the Irish offense was actually the more effective and efficient throughout the night. First off, Michigan had 9 more total yards with one more full possession. Additionally, once penalty adjustments are included, you can see that Notre Dame move forward more than Michigan by a total of 317-275 net yards.

The Irish also frequently worked with a shorter field and were better at getting those yards. Possible net yards takes the starting position for each drive and calculates the number of yards the team could get if it scored a touchdown. Net yard percentage is therefore a gauge of how absolutely efficient an offense was in getting every yard it could have. Notre Dame was 50% more efficient at claiming available yards than Michigan.

Let me give you one more number:

2 – As in at least 2 first downs on a given drive. On Saturday, Notre Dame had 4 drives during which they claimed at least 2 first downs on a given drive. The Irish converted all 4 of these drives for touchdowns. Basically, if the offense started moving, they were not stopped.

Obviously, Michigan did not do that. In fact, their longest drive of the game was their first one: An 11 play, 47 yard drive that ended in a missed field goal.

And so, we finally make it to my final number: 2006. As in the year 2006 (thank you @andrewwinn for catching my mistake when I cited 2007 originally. Follow him, please.) That was the last time Notre Dame started the season 2-0 without committing a turnover. I won’t speak about what happened in the third game with our rival. Suffice it to say, I’m not as concerned for a similar let down against Purdue this coming week.

Let me know your thoughts, feelings, hopes, and dreams for this article on Twitter @IrishMoonJ. If there’s something you want to see, I’m but 140 characters away.

-Go Irish!

– Moons

Breaking Up With 2013 and Hello New Mistress: 2014

2013, could you come here for a moment? (pours two glasses of whiskey).

Oh, I see you’re already out the door. Well, you might want to sit down. I’m just going to come out and say it: It’s over. We both know it’s been over for a little while now, but we should make it official. To be fair, there were warning signs well before now…

When we first met, I was filled with anticipation and expectation that you could be the one.  That quickly evaporated.  We took that trip to Miami together.  What a magical time it was to be.  Yet there on the beach you left me our final night in the city.  Went running off with that southern, inbred hick.  I heard there was champagne and celebration, but I didn’t stay around to find out.  I went off, got drunk with some of the guys, and I forgave you…

After all, the flirting period the Fall before had been incredible.  Every Saturday you’d found a new way to tease me.  To make me feel special.  Eventually there was no denying that you and I were going to meet.  The stars were going to align and we’d be meant for one another.  In December of 2012 I heard the rumors you were too good to be true.  I quickly dismissed it though.  “Just jealousy from those that hate me,” I said.

Screw them all!  2013, you and I were going to prove them wrong.  Miami wasn’t what it could have been, but we were alright.  Then, the bombshell hit.  It turned out parts of you were too good to be true.  You took away my heart, my purity, my moral compass.  I was speechless.  People mocked me for even thinking you could be the one.  Okay, so you weren’t perfect, but still….I was intoxicated from the Fall of 2012.  I could also have still been feeling the buzz from Miami.

(pours another glass of Whiskey)

There were other warning signs.  Not too soon after some of your imperfections came to light, I noticed that folks started to run away.  I searched for the reason and found solace in their reasons.  Turned out one guy I really liked had family commitments that couldn’t be ignored.  Another knew that you weren’t going to belong to him and sought greener pastures.  I wrote them off too; flawed in their logic that you couldn’t be the one.  Not only that, but in early February you brought me that litter of puppies.  You showed me their elite pedigree and said raising them together would bring us closer.  You said we’d be able to enjoy them for years to come and to just have some faith.

I did have faith.  I believed you.  Then I found out that you’d had other indiscretions during 2012.  That part of what made you alluring then, and tangible now, was going away.  No, you didn’t cheat on me with another man, but you cheated on me mentally.  That creative spark that I so admired may not be quite as bright as I thought.  My god, everything was just crumbling around us.  I respect that you came clean about that.  You’d said you were going to re-dedicate yourself and comeback stronger, better than ever.  By this point, I wasn’t entirely ready to wait around, but what else could be done?  You’d built me up, raised my expectations, and I needed to be the bigger man and stick by you during these times.  My faith would be rewarded.

Right around that same time, one of the puppies ran away.  This made me sad, but given everything else that happened it didn’t seem quite as bad.  I mean, I hadn’t had an opportunity to know him yet.  He was still just a puppy.  I thought you and I had done our best to give him a good home, had treated him well, and if he was still too dumb to realize that, then I just hoped he’d find a good home.  Far, far away where I didn’t have to be reminded that he’d left us.

As the late Summer/early Fall came around, I felt a renewed sense of excitement.  Some of it didn’t directly have to do with you but still brought back fond memories.  There was that magical trip out of the country I took when you were but a fantasy.  When I thought back to that, I wondered if there was still a chance for us.  After all, that trip was great, but it’s not like I’d had major expectations back then either.

Oh yeah, I was also less than thrilled with the idea of your sometimes annoying friend returning to our relationship.  She’d been alright in small doses while we were flirting, but I never wanted her to be around continuously.  This is something I never felt the need to tell you before now, but I knew your friend before I knew you.  There’d been far too many Saturdays where she’d showed up and done something so embarrassing that everyone I was with reverted to drinking and making fun of her.  It’s moot now but just thought you should know.

It wasn’t that the Fall was bad.  It’s just that it missed the magic from a year ago that was so exciting.  No longer were we destined for one another.  We were in a rut.  You knew it.  I knew it, and there didn’t appear to be much that could be done to cure it.  By this point, I knew it was just a matter of time before you and I were finished.  I didn’t say it then because the timing wasn’t right.  Deep down inside, I have to believe you knew it too.  We found things to blame our problems on, but they all rang hollow.  Sometimes the timing just isn’t right, and I think we both know that was the case here.

Hell, since I’m being truly honest anyways, your friend wasn’t even that bad.  I even came to appreciate some of the moments she’d been there for.  Sure, I’d rather she not have been, but given everything, it wasn’t her that harmed us.  I came to like her flaws.  Oh how I remember those late nights where we’d stay up late, look at one another, and break out laughing about the things that’d gone wrong that night.  It was awkward.  Our laughter was fueled by nervousness and discomfort, but sometimes, laughter is the best medicine.

The final straw came this last December.  Our time was running short.  We scheduled a trip to New York together, but there wasn’t any situation under which that could honestly be seen as a chance for reconciliation.  Under the best of circumstances, I knew I just wouldn’t loathe you.  Your buddy the matchmaker even left you.  Don’t look at me like you don’t know who I’m talking about.  I’m talking about the one, I can’t remember his name off the top of my head, that had that head of hair and believed in vampires.  He was hilariously awkward and had helped provide some of the most memorable moments from that 2012 flirting period.  I knew if he was ready to leave, there was nothing more to be done.  Only thing left was to wait until after the holidays…

Sooo….here we are.  You and I.  I wish I could say “it wasn’t you, it was me,” but that’s disingenuous.  It was you.  I’d have given you anything.  My heart, my money, it didn’t matter.  You just callously stomped on it.  What could have been our best moment was ruined by that stupid southern hick down in Miami.

And that’s where I need to confess something to you.  By chance, I found out there’s someone new out there for me: 2014.  She’s promised to bring back the energy and creative spark that you cast off.  Even better, I’ve heard she’s already stomped on that southern asshole you thought was better than me.  No, I don’t know that much about her, but the mystery is part of the allure.  All of the things that made you special, she’s now got.  Fact is, you’re past your prime.  In case you didn’t notice, you’re kind of a loner nowadays.  Most everyone’s already moved on, I’m just joining the crowd.  In a brief conversation, 2014 told me that you weren’t even that special to the southerner.  Apparently, you were just a notch on his belt.  That’s all I needed to hear to make this final.

While you won’t be remembered for all the great times, I should thank you.  I’m confident that when I do find the one I’ll appreciate her even more.  Hopefully 2014 can be that one…

(glasses up for a cheers to the new adventure)

– IrishMoonJ